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Large-scale biodiversity patterns in freshwater phytoplankton

Maayke Stomp, Jef Huisman, Gary G. Mittelbach, Elena Litchman and Christopher A. Klausmeier
Ecology
Vol. 92, No. 11 (November 2011), pp. 2096-2107
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23034942
Page Count: 12
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Large-scale biodiversity patterns in freshwater phytoplankton
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Abstract

Our planet shows striking gradients in the species richness of plants and animals, from high biodiversity in the tropics to low biodiversity in polar and high-mountain regions. Recently, similar patterns have been described for some groups of microorganisms, but the large-scale biogeographical distribution of freshwater phytoplankton diversity is still largely unknown. We examined the species diversity of freshwater phytoplankton sampled from 540 lakes and reservoirs distributed across the continental United States and found strong latitudinal, longitudinal, and altitudinal gradients in phytoplankton biodiversity, demonstrating that microorganisms can show substantial geographic variation in biodiversity. Detailed analysis using structural equation models indicated that these large-scale biodiversity gradients in freshwater phytoplankton diversity were mainly driven by local environmental factors, although there were residual direct effects of latitude, longitude, and altitude as well. Specifically, we found that phytoplankton species richness was an increasing saturating function of lake chlorophyll a concentration, increased with lake surface area and possibly increased with water temperature, resembling effects of productivity, habitat area, and temperature on diversity patterns commonly observed for macroorganisms. In turn, these local environmental factors varied along latitudinal, longitudinal, and altitudinal gradients. These results imply that changes in land use or climate that affect these local environmental factors are likely to have major impacts on large-scale biodiversity patterns of freshwater phytoplankton.

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